Sexual abuse is a reality many children have had to live with. Sexual abuse from close relatives is very common in different parts of the world, and especially in Nigeria. A high profile scandal which broke out was when Gbenga Obasanjo publicly said that his (then) wife had been sexually abused by her father, Otunba Alex Onabanjo; that was a scandal that rocked the country and yet, there are several women like the ex-Mrs Gbenga Obasanjo who have suffered sexual abuse, but no one ever wants to speak about it. Understandably…
How do you get people to believe you? If it’s your father, there’s the feeling that you don’t want to be the one to ruin your parent’s relationship. And there’s also the flip side; what if your mother does not believe you? That could be devastating.
The emotional and psychological impact of sexual abuse (particularly on children) have far reading effects and continue to weigh heavily even after people reach adulthood. Some are able to speak about it and find some measure of relief…others not so. One woman who publicly came out after several years to speak about her abuse and also helped put away her abuser is the Desperate Housewives‘ actress, Teri Hatcher. According to Yahoo! she was speaking at a UN event commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, when she broke down and cried as she spoke about being sexually abused by her uncle at the age of 7.
“I was convinced it was my fault and I blamed myself for what had happened, so I didn’t tell anyone and I was silent,” Hatcher said. “I did, however, unsurprisingly, start to act out and my mother decided to keep me away from my uncle. I didn’t see him anymore, but no one in my family ever asked exactly what happened. We remained silent.”
When she learned about one of his victims, an 11 year old girl, who had committed suicide because she had been continually abused, Teri knew she had to do something.
“I was helping my parents pack up my childhood home and I came across a current newspaper article about a beautiful 11-year-old girl named Sarah from my hometown,” Hatcher explained. “The story recounted how she had wrapped her head in a towel in order to avoid making a mess and shot herself in the head. Her reason? In a suicide note, she implicated my uncle, who had been sexually abusing her for years.”
“I am simply one in three women who is forced to accept violence as part of their life story,” Hatcher said during the UN event. And then she said something which is very profound:
“I am one of three women who for the rest of her life battles the voice in her head that accepts blame for abuse, a voice that is antithetical to self-esteem, self-worth, and happiness. This is a statistic that has to change. One in three women can no longer have to face a stigma and a fear that prevent them from seeking help.”
This is really crucial for Nigerian women. One in three women you see would have gone through some form of abuse or another and it would most likely have been sexual abuse. We cannot do anything about our past except learn from it and do our best to not let it control us. However, we can do something about a girl’s NOW.
If you know of a girl who is being sexually abused, please do something about it. Whatever you can do … speak to her parents, their religious leaders…anyone who will listen to you. And if you are a mother, Don’t EVER dismiss when your child comes to you with complaints of sexual abuse in any form. If she (or he) says an uncle or auntie fondled her or touched his private parts or anything which smacks as abuse to you, GET FIERCE! It’s better to be mistaken and alienate a relative than to play it safe and destroy your child’s life.